Think rich.

It sounds too simple to work as a strategy to successfully save for retirement.

But stealing a page from the playbook of high-net-worth investors is not a bad idea at all, says Cindy Crean, managing director of Sun Life Global Investments.

"I've learned quite a bit along the way about what high-net-worth clients do to create that kind of success," says Ms. Crean, who has over 30 years experience in dealing with high net worth clients.

What many people may find surprising, she adds, is that the secrets of the wealthy aren't very surprising at all. These individuals tend to ascribe to the same, simple financial advice that holds true for everyone.

High-net-worth clients' formula generally involves saving as much as possible and spending less than they earn. Moreover they're often not the types to embrace excess risk.

"A lot of us might assume that if someone has more money, that person can afford to take on more risk, but I find that high-net-worth investors tend to seek steady returns and want low volatility," she says. "They have worked very hard for their money so they want to conserve it."

It's the average investor who might feel they have to take on riskier strategies in exchange for higher returns to build wealth for retirement.

But Ms. Crean says investing is a long game, and most investors might be better off with an investment plan that seeks to both provide steady returns and manage risk. Ms. Crean believes this style of investing reduces stress, allowing investors to get a better nights' sleep.

It's an approach that shares a lot in common with trying to successfully lose weight.

"If you lead a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a good diet, you'll probably be healthy in the long run."

But if you go on a ‘crash diet' you're likely to fail. It's the same with investing. If you take on a lot of risk in quest for higher returns to reach your goals sooner, you're likely setting yourself up for disappointment.

The question is, however, how does one come up with the right mix of risk and reward?

"I've found in working with high-net-worth clients that they recognize the value of advice, and they're willing to pay for it if they find someone they really trust," Ms. Crean says.

Finding the right advisor can take time, but Canadians have plenty of good options.

She recommends that investors look for an institution with a diverse menu of investment options that democratize high-net-worth strategies for the average Canadian. Non-traditional investments are often curated for wealthier investors, meaning greater exposure to asset classes such as infrastructure and real estate that are typically only available to institutional funds and high-net-worth individuals.

"In some of our managed solutions at Sun Life, you get exposure to some of these non-traditional asset classes that offer more diversification and may provide a smoother ride over time similar to higher-net-worth portfolios."
In fact, managed solutions — essentially fund of fund portfolios — are ideal for investors seeking ready-made retirement investment plans that allow them "to sleep easy at night," Ms. Crean says.

"If you take a look at the markets right now, you might be worried about the risks and start wondering where the best place is to invest your money."

Managed solutions may be able to address this conundrum.

"You're leaving it to professionals to make those decisions day in and day out," she says.

Yet it's not just a matter of portfolio management. High-net-worth individuals also lean on financial professionals to develop a comprehensive plan that encompasses cash flow, tax, retirement income and estate planning issues too.

"I can't stress enough how important a financial plan is because it helps you understand the decisions you're making and why your money is invested in the portfolio that you have," she says. "If you have that constant reminder of a financial plan, it will help you stay the course while making some tweaks along the way."

After all just like anything else in life, if you want to be successful in retirement, you have to plan for it.

In other words... think rich.